While the Colts re-signed Pro Bowl safety Mike Adams and added Dwight Lowery in free agency, Pagano’s positive first impression of Geathers, a fourth-round pick out of Central Florida, served notice there’s playing time snaps to be earned.
Geathers couldn’t be more prepared to take the next step. He’s the seventh person from his extended family to make it to the NFL: Jumpy, Robert Sr., Robert Jr., Kwame, Jeremy and Clifton. The latter played for the Colts defensive line in 2012.
This much the rookie knows already: Stay humble. He’s understated in interviews, talking mostly about just taking everything “one day at a time,” being willing to do whatever the team asks and how he’s concentrating on learning the playbook.
“Just come out and compete,” Geathers said. “That’s all I’m trying to do, compete wherever I’m at. I’m just competing.”
Pagano said Geathers is capable of playing more than just safety when the coach was asked about if the rookie could make a splash this season.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” the coach said during OTAs. “From a physical standpoint, he’s what you’re looking for. He’s got size and he’s got speed. Very intelligent guy, he’s got good (football intelligence). He learns extremely, extremely well. We’re playing him at safety. We’re playing him down in the box in sub-packages as a dime backer. So he’s learning the backend plus he’s learning the sub stuff.
“He’s been really impressive as far as picking things up. He’s an athletic guy. Like I said, he’s going to be one of those guys that in today’s football you can play inside as a dime backer and get faster, get more speed on the field and matchup with the tight ends that we’ve got to cover now, the backs out of the backfield and things like that. He’s doing really well. He’s going to contribute, not only on defense, but he should be an outstanding special teamer as well.”
Geathers doesn’t concern himself with whether he could earn a starting role. Again, remember, he’s a man who keeps it simple when chatting with reporters.
“That’s something that you have to earn,” he said. “I’m just working hard each day and just coming out and putting my best foot forward.”
In an ideal situation, the Colts would like to plug Geathers into the lineup. He was drafted, which means the team has made a long-term investment in a safety they hope will be around for years. Lowery, on the other hand, was signed to a one-year contract. Adams was re-signed for two years.
The Colts cut their losses by waiving former Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry with two years remaining on his contract. Landry didn’t live up to his billing in two seasons, which included being suspended four games last season for violating the league policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He’s now a free agent and will likely retain that status after the league handed down a 10-game suspension for a second PED offense.
Safeties need to be strong run supporters in the Colts’ 3-4 scheme but also versatile enough to cover. Geathers, 6-2 and 208, did both in college while also earning the reputation as a nasty hitter.
“You could see it on tape,” Pagano said. “He was in the right spot. He was a guy that had instincts. The physical attributes, like I said, were there. He’s a big hitter coming downhill, moving forward. He was very impactful in the game.
“Like most young players in the back end, especially safeties, playing deep, going backwards is usually where it takes a little bit of time. But he’s doing well with that as well. He’s further ahead. He’s kind of exceeded our expectations to this point, and I think mostly because of how we’re using him in our dime package.”
It’s early yet, but the Colts sure seem to have plans for Geathers this season.
“When I’m out there,” he said, “I just try to do my best.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.